Mission Accomplished

As I transition from one building to another, one of my tasks has been to get the choral music library straightened out in my new school.


This would be the third music library I have had to deal with in my life; the first was a collection of over 3,000 titles dating back to the 1920s. The second was a library I built from scratch (only 400 titles when I left). And the third is this current library, dating back to the late 1930s with 1466 titles.


Technology has changed quite a bit, so as I have worked with each library, I've done things a little differently.


In my “new” choir library, I had to completely rework the database (spreadsheet) of information for each of the 1466 titles. I track:


  • Title
  • Composer
  • Voicing (e.g. SA, SSA, SSATB, SATB, TB, etc.)
  • Arranger
  • Publisher
  • Publisher Number
  • Number of Copies
  • Original Cost Per Copy
  • Year of Copyright
  • Genre (e.g. Classical Secular, Classical Sacred, Spiritual/Gospel, Broadway, 50's Pop, etc.)
  • Musical Period (Helpful with the pieces that are “classical” in nature)

In past situations, I have also tracked whether or not items were on a performance/track CD, in Finale, and when the piece was last performed. I chose not to track these items this time around.


There were five numbering systems in play before I arrived. In the case of my first music library, there were separate libraries for mixed, women's, and men's music. With spreadsheets, ordering, and search functions, there is no need for separate libraries.


Over the last weeks, I have gone into school very late (9pm or later–we have keycard access) and worked while my family slept (during the day, you have very little “free time” with two boys at age five or under). I went through each title, piece by piece, and counted each piece. There were a large number of pieces misfiled (placed within other pieces), pieces that were missing altogether, and pieces that weren't in any of the five existing numbering schemes. Each newly counted piece was given a printed label containing the school logo, new number, voicing, and title.


It is very possible I missed a few individual copies of music (some pieces stick together…particularly if they were repaired at some time in the past with scotch tape (which becomes yellow and brittle with age)) but to my count, the library has 43,938 copies of music. There are an average of 30 copies per song (this is well below enrollment, and something we'll have to fix). Of the 1466 titles, over 650 are SSA or SATB arrangements, which are generally unusable for the middle school program (grades 6-8, mixed choirs by grade level) as it stands. There are 600 titles (some in common with the SSA and SATB literature) that are in genres that should be used sparingly in the educational field (e.g. it seems church octavos were a standard repertoire piece in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s–something you would use sparingly today in a non-religious school choir program) and 1050 of the songs were copyrighted before 1990.


The data will allow me to make a case that we need additional funding for music–not to make my life easier, but to meet copyright and a “balanced diet” of educational need. We will have two concerts a year for each grade-level choir, each concert purposely featuring a wide variety of songs from different genres and time periods. There will be some sacred music (usually hidden in a language such as Latin), but we will also need a better selection of modern pop, spiritual/gospel, and other music. I am not sure how that gets funded at this point…but the data will help in figuring that out.


In addition, every piece has been scanned, and every existing performance/track CD has been digitized. In many cases, the resulting scan yielded a better product than the original music (yellowing, breaking, disintegrating). The scanning was done with my Canon P-150 duplex scanner (the current model is a P-215, I believe, about $290) and Canon's own scanning software–and the CD conversion was through iTunes.


I stand convinced that the Canon scanners are the way to go…they automatically remove margins and keep music in the center of the page (often a result of using a school photocopier). Because of the price of large format duplex scanners (band/orchestra music), I'd suggest using a photocopier to make a good, centered copy of a score on 8.5×11, and then to use the Canon Scanners to make your final copies.


Finally, I think Readdle's Documents (free) is a solution to a number of iPad workflow issues I have been facing. How do you download and upload items from your iPad to various online services such as Google Drive and Dropbox? Enter Readdle Documents. You can even log into different accounts on Dropbox or Google (e.g. home and school). And Apple's iWork programs (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) will export into Readdle Documents, whereas you cannot save to Google Drive (this may be addressed by Apple this Fall with iOS 7, but iOS 7 is still months away).


Yes, it took time in an un-air conditioned (in the summer) room to get all this straightened out. But it is done, forever.


I humorously call this the “music graveyard” instead of the music library. The goal is to use our 1:1 iPads for all our choral music, with a paper copy on file for every digital copy we use. Someday the music publishers will solve this problem (if they think schools can afford buying new digital copies of music for every printed copy they own, they are fooling themselves) and all this music will be recycled. And I still think there is an injustice when you have songs that date before 1950 that are under copyright…when they are literally falling apart and will never be used again (they are very much permanently out of print). There should be a way for publishers to revoke copyright on POP titles.



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